In the interest of history

Tunheim reviews JFK death at Law Day event

U.S. District Judge John R. Tunheim speaks about the Kennedy Assassination during Thursday’s Law Day event at the Lowell Inn. Tunheim was chairman of the U.S. Assassination Records Review Board that examined records related to JFK’s 1963 shooting death. (Gazette staff photo by Avery Cropp)
U.S. District Judge John R. Tunheim speaks about the Kennedy Assassination during Thursday’s Law Day event at the Lowell Inn. Tunheim was chairman of the U.S. Assassination Records Review Board that examined records related to JFK’s 1963 shooting death. (Gazette staff photo by Avery Cropp)

The November 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy remains one of America’s most debated and discussed historic events. What members of the local Lions and Rotary International clubs learned at their annual Law Day event Thursday is that history is sometimes best left open to interpretation with the facts.

U.S. District Judge John R. Tunheim, the featured speaker at Thursday’s event at the Lowell Inn Banquet Center in Stillwater, was chairman of the U.S. Assassination Records Review Board for four years. The board was established in 1992 by President George H.W. Bush and continued by President Bill Clinton. The board was created as an independent agency to re-examine for release JFK assassination-related records that federal agencies still regarded as too sensitive to open to the public. The board was not to come to conclusions, but simply declassify the records.

“As you and I all know there is some fairly broad disagreement about who is responsible for what happened that day. Our job was to open records to the public and let them decide for themselves what happened in the days after the assassination.” Tunheim told his audience. “We’ve all heard the conspiracy theories, and I feel that the secrecy at the time of the assassination did have an impact on those.”

Tunheim gave a brief overview of the events of Nov. 22, 1963, with supplemental video that included footage of the Kennedys landing at Dallas Love Field, the famous Zapruder film that captures JFK’s assassination and news coverage of the aftermath of the assassination, as well as the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald.

Tunheim said the board went through millions of documents including CIA and FBI records, foreign organization records, police reports, records from New Orleans and information from the Clay Shaw case, the only man brought to trial and acquitted of Kennedy’s assassination. The collection, which includes 6 million pages, can be found at the National Archives.

“We did run into conflict with quite a number of organizations. The process was set up with an appeal and could be challenged by the organization.” Tunheim said. “What we didn’t declassify at the time were documents related to protection of the President.”

Tunheim added that the board did go through KGB files that had been collected on Lee Harvey Oswald when he defected to old Soviet Union after being discharged from the U.S. Marine Corps.

“The KGB had records of Oswald that were eight feet high. They had kept a close eye on him, making sure he wasn’t a trouble maker. In the roof of his apartment that he got when he found a job in Minsk, there were peepholes on the roof and a Russian woman in the attic, so we have a pretty complete record of his life for the two-and-a-half years he spent there.” Tunheim said.

Tunheim said Oswald was the prime suspect from the beginning of the investigation.
“His motivation is, I think he thought he was supposed to be someone famous in his own mind,  and if he did this he would be viewed with great glory in the Soviet Union and Cuba,” Tunheim said. “He was a really mixed-up 24-year-old who was on a parade route that had changed to go near his workplace.”

Tunheim said the board was given the opportunity to look at the Warren Commission report that ruled there was one shooter, no proof could be found that organized crime was involved, and there were only three bullets used.

Tunheim said the FBI was not involved in the investigation because at the time, shooting the president was not a federal crime. He added that the number of shots going from three to six and then three again dealt with skipping tapes, and that Oswald’s shooter, Jack Ruby, had minimal ties to organized crime though it remains unknown who paid for his lawyers during trial.

“Records of Ruby’s conversations with his lawyer have never been released because of attorney-client privilege,” Tunheim said. “In the interest of history though, I think they should be.”

  • anarchitek

    Despite all attempts to “convince” the American public that only one man was involved, he was immediately identified, and run down in an empty movie theatre, within a matter of hours, a majority of American alive at that time STILL believe JFK’s death was the result of a conspiracy. No matter who comes along to insist the “facts” are known, the lingering doubt is palpable and inescapable. Add to the story the background on Oswald, his activities in the months leading up to the assassination and his bizarre “defection” to the USSR, and his amazing return, sans any punishment, undermine any possible acceptance of LHO as the “lone gunman” who killed the President with only three shots, from above, through a tree, and street signs, using a rifle NO firearms expert was willing to try to replicate the speed with which he’d fired off those rounds! The questions linger, NOT because of the willingness of the American people to believe in nonsensical assassination theories, but BECAUSE of the irrefutable evidence, and the very strange actions and unexplained events that accompanied Kennedy’s death. Not the least of those are the very high number of deaths of eyewitnesses over the next two years, something an actuarial statistician put at 1:5 billion against. I doubt anyone would argue the oddities of Oswald’s time in the Marines, in the USSR and in the time since he’d returned add up to some very significant questions–none of which were ever asked or addressed by the Warren Commission. Add to that the irony of Jerry Ford writing the ONLY book by a commission member supporting the “Lone Gunman” theory, yet being a virtual nonentity when selected by Tricky Dick (who insisted he had NOT been in Dallas that day, then when presented with proof he HAD been, claimed he had addressed a “bottlers” convention–although there were NO such conventions that weekend) to replace disgraced Spiro Agnew as Vice-President. Jack Ruby insisted he had information to reveal, begging Congress to act to protect his life, but died instead of cancer in jail, awaiting trial, his pleas unanswered by Congress.

  • Rested

    The “independent agency to re-examine for release JFK assassination-related records” is a fraud in itself because the JFK assassination was plotted under the guise of plotting a Fidel Castro assassination.

    In other words, there’s no way to get at the real JFK records because the government is still withholding the Castro records (supposedly to protect the names of living people, sources, tactics, etc.).

    In 1963, President Kennedy had handed all responsibility for covert operations in Cuba to Cyrus Vance, the Secretary of the Army. Vance reported directly to Bobby Kennedy.

    Vance’s assistant was an Army colonel named Alexander Haig. Haig, working directly with CIA officer Howard Hunt, plotted the JFK assassination right under Bobby Kennedy’s nose. Bobby thought they were plotting the removal of Castro from power, but they were actually plotting the removal of JFK from power.

    In the end, Bobby Kennedy helped the assassins cover up the plot that took his brother’s life because he thought he was covering up the plot to take Castro’s life.

    If you want to know more, read this book: Against Them: How & Why Alexander Haig, Bob Woodward, Donald Rumsfeld, & Richard Cheney Covered Up the JFK Assassination in the Wake of the Watergate Break-In.

  • Chapaken1231

    I think often about President Kennedy’s own words and awareness that “if any attempt is made to overthrow the government, it will not come from the Pentagon (military) but from the CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY” – President John F Kennedy. The CIA was, in 1963, the main Agency within the Executive Branch that dealt in sabotage, factionalism, espionage, and assassination. Present then in the CIA were agents who were veterans at plotting assassinations of foreign heads of state – especially those leaders considered to be left leaning and popularly elected. Such leaders were viewed as inimical to the “special [hidden] interests the CIA served – multinational conglomerate businesses. If anyone wants a better understanding of how the CIA operated on behalf of special business interests, research the origins and history of the United Fruit Company, and how the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) one, Allen Dulles (and his brother, Secretary of State under Truman and Eisenhower, John Foster Dulles) had close ties to this company. In fact, many high ranking government officials within the Eisenhower Administration served the Board of Directors of United Fruit. At least one employee of United Fruit, personally appealed his company’s plight to Allen Dulled. Dulles got Eisenhower’s approval to remove newly elected and popular Guatemalan President Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán. Jacobo Arbenz Guzman instituted land reforms which nationalized the land owned by United Fruit (which was questionably obtained under previous regimes). The CIA intervened in the internal affairs of a sovereign nation, to overthrow the duly elected President, because the CIA (on behalf of United Fruit) disagreed with what Jacobo Arbenz Guzman was doing. Arbenz was not a Communist or Socialist. He was a popularly elected president who had a mandate from the Guatemalan people who elected him. This “pattern” of “Executive Action” was repeated by the CIA in many countries around the world – particularly those developing countries where leaders sought to nationalize land, minerals, and strategic resources for the inhabitants of their country, rather than allowing “foreign companies” to exploit and export the natural resources for huge profits. The CIA would undertake intense propaganda campaigns in the press (domestic and international) to “label” the targeted leader as a “socialist/communist, or “communist puppet” of the then existing Soviet Union. A clear example of how the CIA was unrelenting in their antagonist pursuit toward such leaders, one need look at Fidel Castro of Cuba after 1959. Castro is the only leader who survived such CIA Executive Action attempts. I submit that President Kennedy was such a target and one who did not survive. The CIA also acted in concert with the US Military, Mafia, Foreign groups, assassins, criminals and soldiers of fortune.